We are regularly greeted by news that some errant, peripatetic expense-rorting MP has been forced to repay money despite protestations that they have done nothing wrong.
Most of them should have known better
However, there is an important principle here. That is that the person who makes the mistake, pays the bill.
But this principle doesn’t appear to apply when it comes to mistakes of Centrelink has made. When Centrelink makes a mistake, albeit in the form of an overpayment, then the recipient of the overpayment must pay the money back.
It’s a difficult issue, particularly as the recipient of the overpayment has been receiving money they are not entitled to. Nonetheless, most of the people who are receiving these overpayments are at the bottom of the economic heap. In addition, they have probably already spent the money and not in a position to absorb a reduction in future welfare payments.
Another difficulty is that there is clear evidence of extensive welfare fraud where people deliberately rort the system.
But surely, the government can be magnanimous enough to say, “There’s been a bit of the stuff up. We’ve been paying you too much. Probably our fault. Don’t worry about repayment but we are reverting to your correct entitlement from now on.”